According to historians, New Year’s resolutions have been occupying our thoughts for at least 4,000 years. The ancient Babylonians made vows to repay debts and return borrowed items to curry favor with the gods, and most modern cultures carry on at least part of that tradition by setting or declaring New Year’s Resolutions at the start of the year.
However, it seems that only 8% of New Year’s resolutions are ever achieved, and of the 92% which fail, 80% of all resolution fail by the second week in February! (According to surveys quoted in Forbes and US News)
Chances are that you have also made at least one New Year’s Resolution this year. Have you already broken yours?
Regardless of the specific resolution, many will fall into one of the following common topics:
Exercise – One of the most common types of resolution involves “getting in shape.” Whether its eating less, exercising more, or a combination of the two, getting in shape is one of the most common goals set at the new year. Perhaps its because of the holiday feasts many cultures enjoy at this time of year, maybe it’s because of a piece of exercise equipment recently received as a gift, or maybe it’s because of recently completed benefits enrollments at work (with many benefits companies now penalizing those of is not in ideal health). But the truth of the matter is, fitness can be both one of our greatest areas of concern and our hardest to change.
Finances – No matter how much we earn, it never seems to be enough. You may be struggling to make ends meet, or you may be saving for that next vacation you want to take but finances always seem to come to the forefront this time of year. It’s a combination of getting all of our bills from the holidays (covering our extra expenses for gifting, traveling, etc.) plus the fact that we are turning our gears towards tax season and preparations to potentially give away a chunk of our hard-earned savings to the government (or hopefully figuring out what to spend that refund on).
Time Management – Whether its to get better organized, or to stop wasting time with certain diversions, time management is another prominent category for resolutions. The work-life balance is often strained by the combination of work commitments, family ties, our kids’ schedules and extra-curricular activities (clubs, sports, etc.) plus anything else life decides to throw our way. No matter how well organized we may think we are, something always seems to get missed so we may set a resolution to better organize and manage our time so we can do all the things we need to and want to, or we identify and modify or eliminate those things which are wasting our time.
Fun and Relaxation – The final major category, and the most diverse, are things that we do for fun and relaxation. This may mean you decide to finally book that vacation you’ve been wanting to take (regardless of the financial or time commitment it may require), or you choose to start that hobby you’ve been meaning to take up. Or maybe, you just commit to schedule some downtime every week to help relieve the stress of the daily grind.
How to Keep Your Resolutions
It’s great that you have a resolution, but how do you keep them from becoming a part of the 92% that fail? I have a few simple strategies that you can use to keep that in the forefront and to hep you make them (and thus yourself) successful.
Simplicity – Rather than making a long list of wishes and dreams, turn your resolutions into tasks whenever possible. Focus on (measurable) actions like lifting weights three times a week rather than making vague promises to “get healthier.” If you’re able to check off one item, your success might make it easier to keep a positive trend going throughout the year!
Focus Forward, Not Backward – Experts say that having a constructive spin on your goals can help you achieve them. Instead of resolving to eat less junk, try striving toward a goal like have dessert only once a week (the Kilted Wife and I only have dessert on Fridays). “I’m going to stop spending so much time playing video games” could become “I’m going to play four hours a week.” Transforming negative worded resolutions into their positive counterparts helps keep your focus on the goal, not the start line.
Accountability – Implement ways to hold yourself accountable to your resolutions. Publish them in a blog (like the Kilted Dad does), or post them in your home, your gym, or your office so friends and coworkers can keep tabs on your progress.
Head to the craft store to pick out a boldly colored piece of stationery or a canvas and draw or paint your resolutions to make them more memorable. Print the key parts of your resolutions in a striking font and frame them. When others ask why you framed those words or phrases, you’ll be reminded of your goals and might gain a resolution partner who wants to join you on the same path. Search online for “New Year’s resolutions printables” and take some of the guesswork out of planning for success. You’ll find pre-designed sheets that you can print, fill out, and display.
Accountability also involves sharing. Not just sharing the information as described above but sharing the experience with others too. You’ll be less likely to skip the gym if a friend / workout partner is counting on you to spot them for their workout too. As humans we are inherently competitive, some of us more than others. We are also more likely to learn more when working cooperatively (and competitively) with a partner. What’s worked for them might work for you, too! Ask a friend to be your resolution buddy and cheer each other on to stay the course throughout the year.
Track Your Progress – When you set up your resolutions, be sure to set them up like SMART Goals. SMART Goals are a smart tool to use because they ensure that your goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Based. When setting goals to achieve your resolutions, make sure they have checkpoints. There’s nothing worse than setting a goal which is like a pass or fail that can only be determined at the end of the year. It’s better to break your big goals up into a series of smaller asks with checkpoints spaced out throughout the year. For example, “lose 60 pounds this year” sounds a lot more difficult than “lose 5 pounds each month.” The good news is that the results of both goals will be the same.
Still On Track?
Having reviewed all this information, are you still on track to be one of the 8% who will achieve the goals and keep your resolutions? Or are you one of the 80% who may have already broken a resolution? Don’t worry if you have broken a resolution, it’s early enough to just start over, perhaps with better planning this time which will more likely lead to success. Be on the lookout for my next post on Planning vs. Doing for more advice on how to achieve success.